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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Brain Traffic Jam and Schizophrenia: Possible New Treatments?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Aug 13th 2009

In a recent Blog on "Schizophrenia and Residential Issues," (August 3, 2009), there was a discussion of some of the causes of this serious mental illness. Since that Blog was published an exciting new piece of research done at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine was published that presents the possibilities for new forms of treatment. The picture accompanying this article shows neurons that this and the older article discuss.

It seems that mouse brains bear some important similarities to human brains. The research involved the use of mice that were genetically engineered to produce symptoms of schizophrenia mice, similar to what humans experience.

What was discovered was that a brain protein called Kalirin is needed in human brains to build the dense network of dendrites (branches at the end of neurons or nerve cells) that carry messages throughout the body and brain. If there is an inadequate supply of Kalirin, as occurs in the brains of patients with schizophrenia, then there are not enough dendrites developed to carry messages. The result is a traffic jam in the brain. Especially in the frontal lobes of the brain, multiple highways are narrowed down to a single lane from 6 to 7 brain roads. You know what its like when you are stuck in that type of traffic jam. It takes a very long time for the traffic to flow from multiple lanes down into one.

In the brains of people with schizophrenia the messaged flowing along the nerve pathways are jammed and taking too long to travel. Lots of distortion and miscommunication occurs.

Those familiar with schizophrenia know the results of the traffic jam. Thinking, reasoning, judgement, and sensory experiences are all distorted, preventing the individual from becoming a fully integrated and functioning member of society.

The reason why this new research is so exciting is that it could to lead to new and much more successful treatments for this brain disease. At present, the only medications available for schizophrenia are anti psychotic treatments. These suppress hallucinations and somewhat correct delusional thinking. However, the side effects are terrible and the over-all success of these medications leave a lot to be desired on the part of patients with the disease and their families.

On the other hand, new treatments based on these latest findings, could correct the communication process in the brain. Perhaps this could occur from the stimulation of the growth of new dendrites, ending the traffic jam and clearing the communication path that is jammed in those with this disease.

Are we talking possible cure? Maybe! However, much work must continue. All of the new research into how the brain develops and functions is very exciting. It is possible to imagine a time in the future when much of human emotional or psychiatric suffering can end. This will not happen today or tomorrow. But, the day after tomorrow? What do you think?

All readers are invited to share experiences with schizophrenia as well as the other mental illnesses. It is fine if these experiences happened to you personally or to a loved one, family member or dear friend. Have you recovered from a psychotic episode? Do you want to write about the experience? If yes, we invite you and all others to do so.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD.

 
 

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at dransphd@aol.com for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

antipsychotic dangers - - Aug 6th 2010

Why risk further and worse damage from antipsychotics? We need more tolerance for sufferers and families. We need help in further education, music , etc, not education about illness but real education , stimulation, fun, athletics , adventure, literature ,exercise and joy, singing, a chance to do the best we can, a chance to be recognised as equally human and not to be sedated and slowly and agonisingly destroyed by antipsychotics. A right to life unmedicated and to be included, not excluded further and blamed and punished.

nerve jamming - ashfaq - Jan 5th 2010

when my eyes are looking at something, they don't actually look at that thing.i am not concentrating on that thing, i am actually thinking of some other thing, probably backwards, sideways or some other thing. it is like eyes are dancing and then nerves in the brain portion become heavy, actually totally jammed within seconds and that is immense pain.i have no fear. it is just out of concentration and i don't have control over my eyes.my eyesight is fine.but the thing which is happening is affecting my whole body.i take good diet, but nowhere is the good health or growth.i got several tests done, everything was fine. only thing that was on lesser side was count of vitamin B12 according to my age. i am 30 yrs. old.i was prescribed and took some injections. i am taking ME-12 OD,zapiz 0.25 thrice a day, clonil 10 and initially i was taking pari cr 25 but now nexipride 50 and whenever i take any of these medicines they don't relax my nerves.Actually after taking these medicines i have to wage a stronger war against my eyee and nerves.these medicines actually jam nerves more.whenver i focus well on a thing and my eyes behave normally or train my mind, this heaviness goes. i wonder whether these medicines are rightly diagnosed for my kind of problem.my whole energy gets sapped with this problem.i sleep but that is with the heaviness in brain.that is not sound sleep.i don't feel refreshed after sleep.if and when, very rarely my nerves in brain get relaxed and my head is free of traffic, my eyes become red, as if the blood that was jammed comes into my eyes.my blood circulation is constricted .anticipating a reply from you soon. are medicines or acupressure methods better.when i tire myself or exercise nerves get relaxed, but i can't exercise 24 hours a day. i have to be normal.please help and suggest.please reply soon.please keep my e-mail id confidential.it is just to get some response from you. thanks n regards

20 yr old son - - Nov 5th 2009

i share the fear and distress of every mother who has lost her child to this illness. The meds are terrible but the alternative is worse. my son won't speak to me now for the last 2 weeks since he went off his meds. I am helpless

Worried Mother - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Sep 12th 2009

Dear Tina,

Your fears are those experienced by every parent with an adult child who has Schizophrenia. That is why it is important that those who carry this terrible diagnosis learn to function as independtly as is realistically possible. To that end, I recommend to you and others that you visit this important web site:

http://www.schizophrenia.com

There, you will find all the information and resources that you need to help your son above and beyond medication treatment. There are many types of housing arrangements available for people with this illness. While free to live in the community, within these types of housing, patients receive many types of support to help them cope with their symptoms.

I also recommend that you visit this helpful site:

National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI):

http://www.nami.com

There, you will learn more information for you and your son.

Good Luck

my son has schizophenia now for 4 yrs - tina - Sep 12th 2009

my son is 20 yrs old he has had this terrible illness for 4 yrs he is my only child and my biggest fear is if anything ever happens to me where will my son end up if they ever found a cure it would for my son and all these other people with this illness that are treated unfairly it would be the best thing in the world

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